As we approach the month of Elul and we look into preparing ourselves for Rosh Hashanna and Rosh Elul is here. It is a time where Hashem is more accessible to us than at other times of the year, it is a time of repenting, of turning to Hashem and wanting to be closer to him. We seek to be drawn into his inner chambers, as we meet him in the field. We blow the Shofar every morning to stimulate our desire for Teshuvah and make sure that all of our relationships are in order. There is one thing that has sparked my notice from this weeks Parsha and that is of giving to the poor. And so we see what Rashi says, Baal Haturim, and just how important this Mitzvah is. Rashi brings out this regarding opening your hand to the poor
“כי יהיה בך אביון:התאב תאב קודם:
מאחד אחיך: אחיך מאביך, קודם לאחיך מאמך:
שעריך: עניי עירך קודמים לעניי עיר אחרת:
לא תאמץ: יש לך אדם שמצטער אם יתן אם לא יתן, לכך נאמר לא תאמץ. יש לך אדם שפושט את ידו וקופצה, לכך נאמר ולא תקפוץ:
מאחיך האביון: אם לא תתן לו, סופך להיות אחיו של אביון [בעניות]:
If there will be among you a needy person: The most needy person has priority. -- [Sifrei]
From one of your brothers: Your brother on your father’s side has priority over your brother on your mother’s side. — [Sifrei] [in one of] your cities: The poor of your city have priority over the poor of another city. -- [Sifrei] You shall not harden [your heart]:Some people suffer [as they deliberate] whether they should give [to the needy] or they should not give; therefore it says: “you shall not harden [your heart].” Some people stretch out their hand [to give], but then close it; therefore it says: “nor close your hand.” -- [Sifrei] [nor close your hand] from your needy brother: If you do not give him, you will ultimately become a“brother of the needy” [i.e., becoming needy yourself].[Sifrei]
ח. כִּי פָתֹחַ תִּפְתַּח אֶת יָדְךָ לוֹ וְהַעֲבֵט תַּעֲבִיטֶנּוּ דֵּי מַחְסֹרוֹ אֲשֶׁר יֶחְסַר לוֹ:
8. Rather, you shall open your hand to him, and you shall lend him sufficient for his needs, which he is lacking.
פתח תפתח: אפילו כמה פעמים:
כי פתח תפתח: הרי כי משמש בלשון אלא:
והעבט תעביטנו: אם לא רצה במתנה, תן לו בהלואה:
די מחסורו: ואי אתה מצווה להעשירו:
אשר יחסר לו: אפילו סוס לרכוב עליו ועבד לרוץ לפניו:
לו: זו אשה. וכן הוא אומר (בראשית ב, יח) אעשה לו עזר כנגדו:
[Rather] you shall open [your hand]: Even many times. [Rather] you shall open [your hand]: Heb. כִּי--פָתֹחַ תִּפְתַּח. Here, the word כִּיhas the meaning of “rather” [whereas in verse 7 it means “if,” and in verse 10, “because”]. And you shall lend: If he does not want [your money] as a [charitable] gift, give it to him as a loan. — [Sifrei ; Keth. 67b] [lend him] sufficient for his needs: However, you are not commanded to make him wealthy. — [Sifrei][sufficient for his needs,] what he is lacking: Even a horse to ride on and a servant to run before him [if he is accustomed to this type of lifestyle]. -- [Sifrei; Keth. 67b] He [is lacking]: Heb. יֶחְסַר לוֹ, lit. what is lacking for him. This refers to a wife [i.e., you should help him marry a wife]. Similarly, it is stated: “I shall make for him (לוֹ) a helpmate opposite him” (Gen. 2:18). -- [Keth. 66b] your poor one, and to your needy one in your land.
על כן: מפני כן:
לאמר: עצה לטובתך אני משיאך:
לאחיך לעניך: לאיזה אח, לעני:
לעניך: ביו"ד אחד, לשון עני אחד הוא. אבל ענייך בשני יודי"ן, שני עניים:
Therefore: Heb. עַל--כֵּן, here meaning מִפְּנֵי כֵן, [i.e.,] “because of this,” or“therefore.” Saying: I offer you advice for your own good. — [Sifrei] [You shall surely open your hand] to your brother, to your poor one: To which brother? To your poor one. To your poor one: Heb. לַעֲנִיֶּךָ, [spelled] with one“yud,” [singular form,] means one poor person, but עֲנִיֶּיךָwith two “yud”s [the second “yud” denoting the plural form,] means two poor people. [Here, since it is written with one “yud,” meaning one poor person, thus modifying אָחִיךָ, your brother, which is in the singular]. See Yosef Hallel, Leket Bahir, Chavel.”
It is important to note that Rashi is very strong is his understanding of these verses that we should give openly and freely and that those who are close to us are more important than those who are far. It is also important to understand that we give Maaser, and Maaser Sheni (2ndtithe) but that is for a different reason this is giving to the poor specifically. As I looked at my giving over the last few years I noticed that most of my giving was not to “poor” per se but giving to people I believed in what they were trying to accomplish I was giving for goals of theirs lofty goals, but goals nonetheless. I began thinking about this idea of giving to the poor and our Rabbi speaks of it plainly saying even “to sell all that you have and give it to the poor” for the person he was talking to it was important and needed and not for everyone, but he also said in other places he who does not provide for his own family and life first is worse than a heretic. He also said that giving to the poor is as if we would be helping him.
The Baal Haturim also has some insights on this verse which also had me thinking as well about giving on this same verse he states”פתחֿ-. Open. According to scribal tradition the pey of this word is written in Torah scrolls in the enhanced form known as doubled pey, this indicates that you who are giving the loan should open, not only your hand but also your mouth. And speak reassuring words to the recipient. Alternatively: The doubled pey of the gerunidive verb Pesach literally opening indicates two openings of the hand. One for whom bread is is appropriate, open your hand to give him bread. One for whom delicacies are appropriate open your hand to give him delicacies. Thus you should satisfy him by opening your hand with a variety of openings. Alternatively: literally opening you should open. This indicates that if the pauper is embarrassed to accept grants bring them to his door. Alternatively: The double form of the verb form opening you shall open indicates that you shall open double. Similarly, giving you shall give him. This indicates that there is no maximum to the extent of these grants, rather you should give and give again…..if you open your hand to the poor the gates of Heaven will be open for you, in order to receive your prayers. But if you do not they will not be opened for you. One who stops up his ear from hearing the pauper. He too will call out and not be answered.”
This made me think about the relationship between giving to humans our brothers and sisters on earth who we can see and giving to G-d who we cannot see. If we truly love and want to give ourselves over to His will we must first be servants and give to those around us. Giving words of encouragement, food, and knowledge of who Messiah is are all included in this and they effect a spiritual reality as well. The next 40 days of Teshuvah I wish to give at least a dollar a day to someone in my town who I know to be poor. I challenge others of you to do the same. Remember, Moshiach gave much and made himself bitul that we might have olam Haba.